Our Rainbow Baby

Oct 22, 2023 | Loss & Grief

Our darling Shauna would have been 25 this year.

 

Let me share my story…

 

My early pregnancy was filled with hope and joy, and that having a child would make us complete.   But I also fear change, not earning my own money, and fear that I may not be a good parent. I am sure we all have some fears when becoming a parent for the first time.

Before I got married, I was not overly maternal; my husband and I had great jobs and could afford a comfortable lifestyle and the freedom to do what we wanted.

Things changed after the marriage; our mindsets changed about having children.  Perhaps it was the security of being married. I came from a broken home and feared having children, as I did not want them to experience what I experienced as a child growing up, but I felt sure that our marriage was a good one and that we would be together forever.

I got pregnant relatively quickly, and we both could not have been happier; it felt so right.

Our pillow talk consisted of choosing names, trying to imagine what our child would be like, making plans on how we would bring them up and places we would visit, and of course, the funny what ifs, i.e., what if our baby was ginger like her dad, what age would we highlight their hair.  We had lots of jokey conversations.  Lots of serious ones too, like would I stay at home or continue working.

Then one phone call from the hospital, our dreams, jokes, and hopes were stopped in their tracks as we were toldad a ‘one in five’ chance of having Down that our baby h syndrome.   The only way the doctors could tell us for sure was to have a procedure called an amniocentesis.

At the same time, we were told that there would be a one in a hundred chance that the procedure could result in losing our baby.

Being first-time parents, we didn’t know how to feel or think, and we were both in shock but trying to stay positive.  Thinking back, I am not sure who we listened to or why we decided to have the procedure, but we did go along with it, keeping our fingers crossed that our baby wouldn’t be that 1 in 100.  I was also told that I was considered an older mum at the age of 32, which the hospital said could contribute to my odds.

After a week of anxiety and sleepless nights, I had the procedure.  The day before the procedure, we still questioned whether we had made the right choice. I was so worried that we would lose our baby; it was a very anxious time.  Once the procedure was done, I was told to go home and do nothing.  I remembered it being a scorching day and my husband going out to buy a fan.  I was terrified to move, and every little twinge heightened my anxiety in case the procedure had damaged our baby.  To me, though, it also meant that I had made the decision to have the procedure, so it would be my fault if we lost our baby.

This anxiousness continued for three weeks while waiting for the results.  We still hadn’t decided what we would do; we couldn’t face making a decision without having the results… Even now, I still couldn’t tell you what decision we would have made, but my heart tells me that I would have continued with the pregnancy.

The three weeks took forever to pass, and the relief was welcomed when we received the results.  The relief that we didn’t have to make a decision, the relief that our baby girl was perfect and that we had got through this.

I decided to take maternity leave early, as the train journey to London was causing me back problems.  My employer was great about it, and they even paid me as they would normally.  So now, with only eight weeks to go, we concentrated on decorating her room, ordering her pram, the cot was up, and carefully picked; the accessories and outfits we were ready to be a family.

I had a few concerns about the size of my bump.  I visited the hospital during the last four weeks of pregnancy. Call it mother’s intuition, but I felt something wasn’t right.  Every time, I was told not to worry.

Christmas has passed.  On New Year’s Eve, we went out with friends to celebrate.  With only 15 days to go, we were getting excited about meeting our little girl.

Then, in the early hours of the 5th of January, I suddenly had a pain in my back and then felt my waters break, except when I put my hand down to check, my hand returned to me covered in blood.  Blood was pumping out of me.  My husband was out coincidentally, celebrating the birth of our friend’s baby, in a panic and little understanding of what was happening to me.  I didn’t call 999; I called my midwife, who took control.  I think I was in shock; I remember shaking uncontrollably and feeling like it wasn’t happening to me.   As I looked around my bedroom, there was blood everywhere, even over the light switch.

Just as my husband was getting out of the taxi, the ambulance turned up.  The shock on his face at seeing the ambulance sobered him up instantly, and he got into the ambulance with me.

Blood was still coming out. I remember the ambulance man trying to tease me about the mess I was making in his vehicle; he wasn’t being nasty. He was trying to take my mind off what was happening to me.  I had little understanding, but being the positive person I am, I didn’t think about the worst-case scenario.  I was rushed into the emergency maternity unit; there was a team waiting for me.  I remember hands all over and in me.  But I heard the sweet sound of my baby’s heartbeat on the machine and felt relief.  The next minute, I was rushed down the corridor while asked to sign a consent form.  There were no thoughts in my mind that anything could happen to our precious little girl; it didn’t occur to me at the time that I would lose her.

I woke up in the recovery room.  I remember trying to open my eyes; the room was white and blurry.  Consciously, I remembered why I was there and started calling out for my baby.  I felt fear and a knowing that the worst news was coming, but I washed it from my mind and kept calling out.

My husband came to my side to gently tell me what happened.  The emotions of hearing the news were just too much. My chest tightened, and the grief overwhelmed me.  The nurse brought our baby to me, but at the time, I was confused and overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to feel; there she was, dead in my arms.  The feelings were indescribable. I couldn’t process what was happening.  They took her away and took me to a side room in the maternity department.  I was tied up to all sorts of machines; I didn’t know how concerned they were about my welfare; I had no idea what happened in the operation theatre. I didn’t realise till much later that my husband was asked to make a choice, whether to save the baby or me. I had lost so much blood.

I couldn’t sleep in the wardroom, my mind was racing, I couldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t come to terms with what had happened. It all seemed so surreal but real at the same time.  The nurses were in and out all night, monitoring me.  My husband was by my side the whole time. And, of course, my friend, who I had visited hours earlier to meet her newborn son, was in a room a few doors away.  That added to my stress; I was worried about how she would hear my news. I just wanted to reassure her that I was okay.

Yes, I was fine…. this became my line; of course, I wasn’t, but I had no idea how to be or show that I wasn’t fine.

The next day, the news spread, and the visitors started coming. The hospital must have relaxed its visiting policy because I had visitor after visitor; there were grown men crying and lots of people not knowing what to say but letting me know how sorry they were for us.  Me ……I was consoling them.

Two days in the hospital, and I had to get out; all I could hear were crying babies, which just made me feel the loss over and over. The hospital nurses understood.  We left after spending some more time with our little girl, and a blessing was arranged for us.  I was asked if I would donate her body; it was a decision I just couldn’t make. I had my little girl in my arms; she was so pure I couldn’t stand the thought of her being cut up.  If I had made that decision today with a balanced head, I think I would have donated. We had pictures taken, locks of her hair and her hands and footprints.  It was hard to say goodbye to what we thought would be the last time we would see her. I can still sometimes feel the coldness of her cheeks on my face, even today.

After being released from the hospital, still not being able to fully stand straight from the caesarean, I had to get to town; I had to buy her something special; I wanted to get her a necklace.  It was January, cold and a bit icy. Walking was difficult as each step pulled on my scars, but nothing was going to stop me; I had to do this today.  I remember the pain I felt from my scar, but in a way, the pain felt good.

The funeral arrangements. More decisions, and I needed it to be perfect for her. It was something I could do as a mother for our precious girl.

We named her Shauna.

In the days running up to the funeral, there would be daily condolence cards and flowers delivered to our house.  Our house looked like a funeral parlour.  It is only just recently that I can have and appreciate bunches of flowers in my house.  Flowers just reminded me of our loss. We had to choose songs for the church.  Janet Jackson was in the charts with ‘Together Again’, but it sounded too upbeat and did not resonate with our feelings. We shared our wedding song with our little girl: “I will always Love You”. It made her feel part of us.

After calls to my midwife, begging her for us to see our baby again, she arranged for us to visit her at the funeral home.  We were able to hold her and be with her for some time. I really needed this. I wanted to say goodbye properly, and as I raised her in my arms to kiss her, the coldness of her cheek hit me again.  She was beautiful, with her perfect face and strawberry-blonde hair.

The day of the funeral. The cars came, and we went with our daughter to the cemetery.  What I remember of the journey was people pointing at the tiny white coffin and the sadness on their faces as the funeral cars passed them.

The church was so packed that not everyone could get in, and the mass of flowers was overwhelming and beautiful.  This little Angel girl had touched so many people’s hearts.

The funeral was a burial, as I couldn’t stand the thought of burning her.  I hadn’t experienced much death around me at the time.  It felt like the right thing to do, but seeing her lowered into the ground was hard; it was cold, and I wanted to jump in and wrap her coffin in warm blankets.

We went back to a local pub after, as we felt so many friends and family came to the funeral, we needed to thank them.  It wasn’t a boozy affair, but I had three people individually come and sit with me to tell me about their loss.  We were able to console each other, sharing our losses for a few minutes together; this helped me realise that this just didn’t happen to me; there are others who have had to go through this.

After the funeral, it went quiet, as it does.  I spent a lot of my time at the cemetery. I had no baby and nowhere to go, and it seemed the only place I could get comfort.

But this story has more layers.

I moved to Colchester, where my husband’s family are, a few years ago.  Until now, my life was my work; at weekends, we would socialise with people my husband knew.  I had got to know many of them on nights out, but although I knew them and we all got on well, it was more of a social thing.  My friends that I grew up with weren’t close by.  So, I am trying to say that I haven’t built any deep friendships yet.  The lovely girls around me had their friendship groups, many of which went back to childhood.  So, on the surface, it looked like I had a lot of support as people visited, but I felt desperately lonely.  I had lost my work life, and I had lost my baby, and I thought I’d lost our little family, our forever happiness. I was desperate for another baby, not to replace our Shauna, but to be a mother and perhaps to replace the feeling of empty arms and the pain in my heart for her.

I would beat myself up all the time, my mind racing, trying to make sense of what had happened.  I worried that she had heard me in the womb, as before I knew I was having a girl, I had said that it would be great to have a boy then a girl. I worried that she may have felt unwanted.  Was it because we laughed that we didn’t want a gingerbaby?  Was it that I wasn’t good enough? Was I being punished for something?  Yeah, I didn’t want kids before I got married, but that changed; I so wanted her.  My thoughts were sabotaging my mind, but I was careful not to let people see that I was falling apart.  I didn’t want them to think I was falling apart.  I would do things like visit friends who were in the hospital having a baby; I wanted to show the world that I was fine and coping, but inside, I was spiralling, not knowing how to deal with the feelings that were running through me.  Once I visited friends in the hospital, the thoughts I had after added to my anxiety, as I would worry that they would think I wanted to steal their baby.  But I wanted to see that things could eventually be like this for me: a nice hospital ward with happy faces and a live baby.

Work

I didn’t return to work; I couldn’t; something had changed in me.  I got various temp jobs in Colchester but only wanted to get pregnant again.  I would continue to go to the cemetery and talk to Shauna.  Her gravestone has a little poem that I will share with you.

‘The stars are all god’s children; he has taken from below, Shauna; when we look at night, we can see your star glow.’

I would look out the window at night and tell her I love her.

 

The Midwife

I had a fantastic Midwife, Bev Lynn.  She was there every step of the way.  She was the one who gave us a clipping of Shauna’s hair and sorted out handprints and footprints to keep.  She was the one who asked if we wanted to dress her in an outfit we liked and wrap her in a shawl that was personal to us.  She encouraged us to take pictures and make a memory box.  She was the one who arranged for the vicar to bless her.  She encouraged us to hold her as much as we could, and she was the one when I desperately needed to have her again, making the arrangements with the funeral parlour.

Every year, that midwife never forgets.   Some years later, after my yearly post on Facebook on the anniversary of Shauna’s death, another midwife contacted Bev after seeing the post. She remembered that awful night; she went to her car and put on the radio after her shift. Robbie Williams ‘Angels’ was playing, and she just sobbed for me and my Shauna.  She felt my pain.

Then there are those people around you who have also lost a baby.  It brings up memories for them when they see the trauma you are going through.  No one loses a baby in the same circumstances. We all have our stories, and each one of those babies was lost to grieving parents who feel the loss so deeply.

Then you have the people around you who say, “You will have another baby”, or it’s happened to many people, or time is a healer.  Then you get those who avoid you. I now understand that death is hard, not only for those it directly affects but for the people around you who feel useless or do not know what to say for fear that they may be upset.  I also learnt that with all the kindness around me, only I could make myself better.  I had to find a way of accepting, releasing, and moving forward.   But this didn’t happen till years later, which had awful consequences on my health.

We were called back to the hospital so they could explain what they thought had happened.  The doctor was cold and lacked sympathy about our loss and just informed us that I had a placenta abruption.  Her death was classed as a Stillbirth.

 

Six months later

On a canal boat having a week away with friends.  We stopped at a little village.  I wanted to make an excuse to get away on my own, but there didn’t seem to be a good enough excuse to go off without the others in our holiday group.  So, I confided with my friend that I needed to find a chemist as I thought I might be pregnant. We made our excuses and went for a walk towards the village shops.  Luckily, the chemist was open, and I got what I needed.   Later, I took the test, and it was positive.  Being untrusting of the test, I asked her to walk back with me so I could buy a couple more tests.

On the Norfolk broads in the middle of nowhere, I had the confirmation that I was pregnant again.  I could not have been happier at that moment.

To be continued………Being Pregnant again after a loss – the anxiety returns.

This is my heartfelt reflection on the loss of our precious girl.

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